Monday, February 26, 2024

Penny’s Two Cents by Penny Orloff

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 Is it already 2024? Another year rides off into the sunset... Six years, and I’m still procrastinating on my book, Who Would You Be If You Had Nothing to Bitch About? 

Oh, what to do, what to do… 

Although we feared their individual wrath, my siblings and I really made an effort not to displease both of our parents at the same time. For, in their ire, together they dreamed up ever-more-dastardly tortures to get us to toe the mark. By far the worst one The Parents could think of, the one that really got our attention and kept it, was “NO TV FOR A WEEK!!!”

Aaarrrgghhhh! No Mickey Mouse Club, no Leave It to Beaver, no Superman? Even if joy was certainly not what Joe and Ruetta Orloff had in mind with so heinous a punishment, those television-less weeks were the birth of my passion for costume design, the germination of my playwriting skills, the perfection of my double pirouette. After all, I suddenly had hours of boredom to kill, and kids are nothing if not creative.

So, why not try it—how ‘bout I turn off the TV for a week? That goes for Netflix on the ol’ computer, too. And the endless scrolling through Facebook and Twitter feeds on the iPhone. 

I—who have “no time” to finish that book, practice the piano, become fluent in French—how much time will I have suddenly exhumed? Might I have found even an hour a day? Half an hour?? If I’m watching TV and/or vegging online anywhere near the national average of four hours a day—and I am—I’d have more than a thousand hours a year. Writing at the slow rate of half a page an hour that’s still a pretty hefty book, even after my customary slash-and-burn editing.

How badly do I want to finish this third book, to see those who believe in me rejoice over my accomplishment? To revenge myself on the people who doubted me… Resolution for the New Year: Right now—RIGHT NOW!!—I commit to one measly week without television and Facebook and Twitter and Netflix and YouTube, no matter what might be happening on ESPN+ or Murder in Boston. I may like my freedom so much that I never go back. (Yeah, that’ll happen…)

Every book seems the struggle of a whole life. And then, when it is done — pouf! Never happened. Best thing is to get the words down every day. And it is time to start now.

John Steinbeck

Penny Orloff was a working actress and dancer in LA when she relocated to New York on a Juilliard opera scholarship. She played featured parts on Broadway after 7 seasons and more than 20 Principal Soprano roles at New York City Opera. Her solo show, Jewish Thighs on Broadway (based on her award-winning novel, available on Amazon), played off-Broadway and toured the U.S. for a decade. Her new show, Songs and Stories From a Not-Quite-Kosher Life, is currently touring. More at 

Monday, February 19, 2024

The Siren Call of Music to Write by Robert Ronning


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I can’t abide silence whether I’m reading or writing. I’ll take music every time, if it offers a pleasant buzz as I write. I seldom listen to ballads or lyrical works: a singer’s words distract me from the words I’m trying to write. The challenge of conjuring up a story with the right words is best met with pure instrumentals floating in the background like a pacifier. I do listen to occasional opera; an aria by Renee Fleming or Kiri Te Kanawa in a language I don’t understand can be a positive distraction.

I go through phases and different styles of music. Recently I’ve been dipping into New Age, but I’m rather picky: I adore Ann Sweeten’s romantic piano pieces that stand out from the musical herd of New Agers. Her distinctive style is recognizable on the first few notes, emotive and dreamy but never soppy. Her siren chords are pleasant and soothing, a muse to write by. Recently departed Tom Barabas was rather similar—a romantic and distinct pianist.

Of course, I have my daily go-to music, mostly NPR’s classical music covering a whole gamut of musical styles and periods—its list is long in “long-hair music,” as my dad called it.

I’m currently in a more upbeat mode and going back to the nineties of Willie & Lobo and their lively blend of flamenco guitar, gypsy riffs, and Willie’s brooding and racing fiddle. How a violin and guitar put out the sound of a rich ensemble is stunning. Since I write adventure stories, they give me a lift even as I hold to my desk and write. They even make me feel young again … almost.

Robert Ronning writes about wildlife and conservation, and published his adventure novel, Wild Call to Boulder Field in 2023. He and wife Kathleen live in Tucson and summer in a cabin in Arizona’s White Mountains, a few minutes daily dog walk from National Forest and wildlife. He considers his proudest achievements rescuing and assisting the rescue of lost dogs. A recovering golfer, now an avid Pickleball player, he likes to unwind with a crossword puzzle. More at 

Monday, February 12, 2024

Science fiction needs a hint of romance


Find these and more on my BWL page HERE

My love of science fiction started early, when I read DUNE by Frank Herbert. But I always found that these books were written by men and for men. They relied heavily on the technical aspect, and they portrayed male protagonists, with very few female characters. Even the new movie versions of Star Trek are still men-oriented. Star Wars made progress with the last trilogy with Rey as a female Jedi, and more females in the new Disney series. It's about time.


As an avid reader, I scoured the library for sci-fi and fantasy novels by female writers, like Ann McCaffrey (Dragon of Pern series), and Marion Zimmer Bradley. Then, I discovered the Dock 5 series, by Linnea Sinclair, the undisputed queen of Sci-fi with romantic elements. Linnea’s books even had cat-like animals called furzells. Her stories contained plenty of action, strong women characters as ship captains, and they navigated the stars, making no apologies. I had found my niche.

This kind of science fiction written by women does not focus on the engineering of the spaceship, or the weapons, nor does it explain how people traverse intergalactic distances. It is set in a future where space travel technology exists and is commonplace, where man has met alien cultures and spread throughout the universe... like in Star Wars or Star Trek.

So, when I decided to write, I wrote what I love, space adventure with strong women as protagonists. Of course, there are brave heroes, and often cats in my stories as well. Write what you know, right?

As for the angels in my books, they are a select group of gifted people with supernatural talents, in charge of keeping the balance of good and evil in the universe. This said, they are still people, with a body and a heart.

The Blue Phantom glows like a beacon in black space, appears and vanishes, and never registers on scanners. Rumors say it will save the righteous, the oppressed, and the downtrodden… and slay the unworthy without mercy. The space pirates fear it. Their victims pray for it… but its help comes at a price…

Vijaya Schartz, award-winning author
Strong Heroines, Brave Heroes, cats
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